March 2, 2016 – A blueprint for Navy expansion in a report
The ringing silence from our Congressional delegation (with the exception of some tepid protest from Rep. Derek Kilmer) as well as other elected officials in our region, has been completely puzzling. Why don’t our two Senators, or other Representatives answer our letters or phone calls? Why do the Governor’s Office and the State Legislature ignore our concerns? Western Washington constituents have called, pleaded, and sent our government tens of thousands of letters and a petition with more than 120,000 signatures. All we are asking is for fairness. All we get is silence. Except, of course, for the jets and helicopters roaring overhead. And the deafening sonar. And bombs and mines and sonic booms.
So, their silence, after all the tremendous effort to get their attention, is odd.
The few letters that have trickled back to constituents contain formulaic platitudes about national defense and the need to support our military, as well as this personal favorite: “I am monitoring the situation.” Well, that’s not the point, is it. Monitoring does little, and supporting the military does not have to mean unquestioning acceptance of them bringing combat testing and training into our lives in ways that disrupt our communities, harm our health, or damage wildlife and our tourism-based economy.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) recently spoke up in a Senate Appropriations hearing on behalf of concerns about Army combat helicopter landings in wilderness areas of the North Cascades and southwest Washington. She specifically asked the Army if they are following all the laws and working with local stakeholders. For that she and deserves our thanks, but also a question: Why haven’t you asked the Navy the same question? If extensive legal research and media reports have repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for the law by the Navy, why are Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and its hundred thousand residents, plus three million annual visitors, not to mention a World Heritage site, being thrown under the bus? Are we second class, or have we merely been written off as a sacrifice zone?
Or maybe there’s another answer…
A little history might explain the puzzling silence. In 2012, a report – a blueprint, really – was published for the State of Washington by three Washington DC lobby firms. It’s called Retaining and Expanding Military Missions – Increasing Defense Spending and Investment. Clients for those three Washington DC lobbying firms clients include Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, a military munitions manufacturer, a cyber information security firm, a defense aerospace company, and, amazingly, city governments and utility and transit authorities throughout the Puget Sound area.
The Acknowledgements page of this report reads like a roll call for Washington’s elected officials and staffers at the local, state, and national level, plus defense industry executives and military lobbyists, both retired and active duty. The report thanked them all for “dozens of meetings, conference calls and briefings with more than 150 people.” It recommended that the State formalize the then-informal Washington Military Alliance as a Governor’s advisory board with a strategy and a competitive grant program. This is what a war-based economy looks like.
An eye-opening Memorandum of Agreement was signed on September 3, 2014, at about the same time the rest of us were learning of the Navy’s fait accompli, sneaking its Electronic Warfare Range Environmental Assessment past the public without a single comment from anyone. The purpose of this Washington Military Alliance is to “come together with one voice in response to potential cuts in defense spending.” This includes strong resistance to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) attempts to reduce the military’s footprint and rein in defense spending. It should be noted that for every $1 spent on troops, $2 goes to the defense industry, and that if you add up all the components of defense spending – the real total, not counting spending by an army of lobbyists – it is around $1 trillion, according to a report by The American Conservative.
Raise your hand if you knew about this report or those meetings in 2012.
Of course, lavish spending, waste and outright ripoffs by the defense industry are nothing new. They’ve been happening since George Washington was president. What is new is the organization that’s been chartered to institutionalize it and jam it down everyone else’s throat. The report’s title pretty much says it all, but the question is: did those 150 people it thanked know of the scope and size of the military’s plans back then? If they did, why would they have endorsed it on behalf of their constituents who had no idea such massive plans for militarizing the region were coming? Maybe we should start asking if they knew.
This report represents some of the underpinnings for what’s been called an Economic Club in Washington.
While the Washington Military Alliance charter says membership is “inclusive,” not one member listed represents the viewpoint of people who question unlimited military spending and encroachment into non-military lands and waters. Or its effect on the environment. When you look at their news stories, it becomes clear that what we have here is basically a hybrid government-endorsed SuperPAC for the military and defense industry in Washington State, paid for by us.
The State is supposed to invest local monies in the local community, in health and public safety, and to return what’s not spent in the form of lower taxes. But this report makes sure that doesn’t happen. The number of States that are funding military base construction has increased significantly. The rationale? Risking taxpayer ire is easier than the risk of base closure, because bases are now regarded as “big commercial enterprises” too.
Here is a paragraph from that report: “The State should also initiate the formation of a working group that would investigate the establishment of Public-Private Partnerships that would focus on needed infrastructure upgrades at the bases that would ultimately benefit all participants. Some of the relevant areas that could be pursued are listed below, but are certainly not all inclusive:
- Grid Upgrades / Grid Security
- Wastewater Treatment Facilities
- Communications Networks
- Transit Systems (On-Base and Off-Base).”
In other words, the military wants to put States on the hook to pay for upgrades to military bases and the infrastructure around military bases. A quick glance at this short report from the Connecticut General Assembly shows some of the enormous amounts, and it is likely that communities across the nation that are not near military bases suffer disproportionately when it comes to maintaining and improving their infrastructures. And we are talking about billions going into funding bases from state government; infrastructure, roads, commissions, on and on. Because why? Because it is a blackmail situation with each state competing against 49 other states. Need more proof? Read the next paragraph.
Here’s another paragraph from the report: “The State should also consider amending the Public Records Act to exempt sensitive military base analysis information that pertains to specific base recommendations. The rationale is based on not sharing this “competition sensitive” information with bases in other states that have similar missions. There is president [sic] for this kind of legislative action as Florida has recently amended their laws to accommodate these type exemptions.”
This is breathtaking hubris on so many levels that we don’t even know where to begin. The Navy wants the State to amend a law that lets citizens learn what the government they pay for is doing, not because of national security, but for competitive business advantage? Yes. The military as business partner is the new model. President Eisenhower’s famous farewell address of January 17, 1961 could not have been more explicit or have found a starker example. Unless you consider this. And in our own Washington Congressional delegation, Rep. Adam Smith went on record saying he’s looking for opportunities to give the military even more money than the $609 billion they asked for this year. The graph below, in which military spending has surpassed all other spending combined, tells part of the tale.
With largesse like that as our infrastructure and education and social safety net systems crumble, why wouldn’t the Navy continue full speed ahead, as if the loud opposition from ordinary people like us doesn’t matter? Because, quite frankly, if you read the lobbyists’ report, you’ll find it doesn’t. There isn’t a single mention of public participation or comment. There was no chance for us to give our elected officials feedback.
In separate actions, the Navy saw to it last year that a Washington State Senator who happens to also be a naval reserve officer introduced a bill to gut the State’s environmental protection law, or SEPA.
A Princeton University study made this astonishing statement: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” A summary of that study with a video and graphics is here.
A nonpartisan foundation found that between 2007 and 2012, America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion lobbying Congress and contributing to congressional campaigns. In return for this, they received $4.4 trillion in taxpayer dollars, which was more than the entire Social Security payout for 50 million citizens over the same period. This report, another fait accompli, is one of the results of all that lobbying.
So, what can be done? Although it’s depressing to read all this, there are things you can do besides letter-writing (and don’t stop doing that, either)
First, the Candidate Peace Pledge: This is an election year, with the highest level of insanity in living memory. A lot of people are running for office in local and state elections, too. They are eager to meet constituents and gather votes. So, call them, go talk to them, explain the issues, and urge them to sign the Candidate Peace Pledge, which asks for three things:
- Work to end violence;
- Prioritize demilitarizing the economy; and,
- Clean up toxic military waste dumps.
What clear-headed candidate wouldn’t agree that these are public health and safety issues? What reasons could any true public servant give for refusing to sign that?
Second: Perhaps getting candidates to pledge (in writing) to work toward overturning the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, the one that gave corporations the power to buy elections by declaring them “people,” would be a good idea, too. Even if the prospective office the candidates seek doesn’t interact with campaign finance reform, they could be asked to sign resolutions of support. Which brings us to:
Third: Urge your local governing bodies to sign resolutions, especially the ones whose members were thanked this report. For guidance on writing a Resolution, see this site, from the American Library Association. Here’s an example of a brief, well-written resolution, on a health issue in New Jersey. Once your resolution is ready, ask for time on the agenda, and present the background behind your resolution. Ask the council, chamber, or whatever governing body it is, to sign it, and then take it to the next governing body for their signature. And the next.
Your efforts have made a difference already. Thanks to the 3,000+ people who commented in November 2014 and wrote thousands of letters, the Forest Service has still not signed the permit that would turn over national forest roads to the Navy. Thanks to your letters to a variety of officials, elected and appointed officials are becoming aware of the depth and breadth of public opposition to this unnecessary expansion of military combat testing and training into places where it should not be.
Don’t let up. Continue to hold them accountable. They are supposed to work for us.